Fanfare

Bach Transcriptions and Modern Australian Piano Music may not be the kind of title to bring in the curious outsider – it sounds rather like something for the specialist – but you’ll find this disc repays investigation. Trevor Barnard, British-born, briefly US-resident, and Australian-based since 1972, dispatches his Bach transcriptions with aplomb, but the real interest will be in the Australian composers he brings to the surface. I’ve been an admirer of the music of Margaret Sutherland ever since I came across her Violin Concerto, and though the two suites of miniatures recorded here were never intended to show off the full range of her powers, they’re full of humor and tenderness., expressed with an open-air straightforwardness. The 12-tone Three Pieces of Felix Werder is, despite an idiom very different from Sutherland’s, likewise bright and good-humored, though with just a hint of passion in the third, where tonality gently obtrudes. And the brief Comment on a Popular Song by Nigel Butterley is a gruffly witty study from 1960 of Click go the Shears, with a walking bass that recalls the first of Barber’s Four Excursions – and to be honest I wouldn’t have identified the tune as treated by Butterley. The piano sound, recorded in the same Melbourne hall on three separate occasions, is just a tad constricted. A worthwhile release.

—Martin Anderson